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Where did honesty in marketing go?

May 9th, 2019 by Kenneth Abrahams

callers at a call center

Some will say that there has never been truth in advertising or marketing, perhaps they are correct. I like to think that it doesn’t always have to be that way. Over the years, I have seen a not-so-subtle change in the approach of marketers. Earlier this week, I received an unsolicited email from my high school alumni association, telling me that I needed to contact them to “update my information for the 175thanniversary.” This held little interest for me as I haven’t stepped foot in the place in three decades and only went back to work a few post-prom events years ago. My curiosity was piqued, and I wanted to see if I was correct in assuming this was a thinly veiled attempt at sales.


My first tip off was that you couldn’t do this online—you had to call. What of my information was so vital that it couldn’t be done through a secure online portal? Answer: nothing; but then how would they be able to pitch me a copy of the directory? So, I dialed the number and they did not disappoint. The 800-number provided took me straight to a call center that I assure you was nowhere near the east coast. His accent and the absolute butchering of the name of the town I live in gave it away. He thanked me for calling and then jumped right in. For the first time in 18 years they were going to publish an alumni directory from my high school. Apparently, there are tens of thousands of living alumni just waiting to connect with me. Honestly, this surprised me a little bit since I have heard from precious few of them. 


All my information was verified, which was correct before we started, and then the pitch came. From verification of the last piece of information to the sales pitch was a millisecond. There was no pause, not even a time to take a breath. First, there was an incredible offer for the directory in hardcover and then an electronic version as well; but wait there is more, a T-shirt and a sweatshirt, too. From what the person on the other end of the phone said, this was super popular with my fellow alums and where would I like it shipped. The cost was a mere two payments of $170.00 each. Hard to believe but I declined. Somewhat dejectedly, he went to option two, just the book for two payments of $60.00, again I declined.


These are not the only calls like this I get. My office enjoys when the “athletic departments” from various schools call, asking me to support their ________ (fill in the sport here) by advertising in their athletic program. These people are not from athletic departments but from a company that publishes these programs. How do I know that these are not actually college athletic departments? Over the last 10 years this companies’ script have not changed. They have very specific responses to every objection. When I get these calls, I encourage them not to waste their breath but undaunted they plow on. What usually stops the conversation is when I start telling them how they are supposed to respond to my rejection at each juncture. Some of the more veteran callers waive the white flag sooner than others.


What is my point? There are so many sales/life lessons to be learned here, I have taken the liberty of listing a few below.


  1. Any relationship, sales or otherwise, must be mutually beneficial for both parties.
  2. Make sure to actually listen to what the person that you are conversing with is saying.
  3. Be honest and open. At least the sales people working on the athletic programs make no bones they want to sell me ad space. 
  4. Calls beginning with the phrase this is just a curtesy call, rarely are.
  5. Be respectful of another person’s time.
  6. Empathy is very important. Try to put yourself in their seat/position.
  7. Like it or not, we are all selling something. When you go for a job interview you are selling your personality and talents to a perspective employer.


At FUN Enterprises, Inc. we try and be partners with our clients. To do that we need to truly listen to and respect their needs. We believe in relationships, not a quick sale. Our goal is to talk to you, not at you. Working with us should be FUN, not painful.


About the author:

Ken Abrahams, for years, refused to use the term sales person. Unfortunately, it has very negative connotations. Over time, he has made peace with the term knowing that done right being a salesperson can be an honorable profession. He is proud of the working relationships that he has with his clients and the work they’ve done together over the past three decades.


Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash

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